Joyselle sighed. “Perhaps, my dear Bathilde; you would not mind not interrupting me again? Yes—think of the green coat. And that you did not mind about your cap. Your life has been very useful, ma mere, and you have devoted children to love you and care for you.”
“Look at the crowd,” cried out the old man suddenly. “It must be a funeral!”
“Father!” Madame Chalumeau crossed herself with fingers that fairly trembled with haste. “How can you? When it is your own wedding.”
As the carriage stopped Victor leaned forward and laid his hand on his father’s.
“Father—this is a splendid and—and most happy day for all of us. There are nearly fifty of us—your descendants and their wives and husbands, and we are very proud of you. Will you give my mother your arm and follow Bathilde and me up the steps?”
Old Joyselle skipped with great agility from the carriage, and with a grand imitation of his son’s manner followed that son into the church.
Brigit, standing near Felicite near the altar, felt her eyes fill with tears as the little group appeared. There was something infinitely touching in the sight of the ancient couple coming back to the altar to renew their vows after fifty years.
The priest’s voice was very weak, but it carried well under the arched roof, and when the rings—the one for the bride bought by her male, the one for the groom by his female descendants—were blessed and exchanged, many people were frankly weeping.
Joyselle had not joined his wife and son, but stood opposite them, in front of a group of relations from the country, his fine figure in its perfect clothes contrasting strongly with them.
He was paler than Brigit had ever seen him, and his eyes, bent to the ground for the most part, even more deeply circled than they had been at the cafe a few hours before.
The priest droned on; a baby cried, causing the bridegroom to dart a furious glance in its direction; one of the country cousins blew his nose with simple-hearted zest; the old couple who had been kneeling were assisted to their feet. “In nomine Patris, et Filii——”
Brigit bowed her head with the rest, and then as she raised it, met Joyselle’s miserable eyes; miserable, accusing, despairing eyes.
The ceremony was over. Old Joyselle gave his arm once more to his wife, and between two lines of buzzing admirers conducted her to the carriage, followed by his famous son, the rest of the family crowding after.
“Pathetic, wasn’t it?” asked Theo. “I was so afraid grand-pere would not behave, but he is rather in awe of father. Did you see my uncles, Antoine and Guillaume? Come, petite mere, let’s go on. Our carriage is waiting at the inn, to save time.”
Brigit followed obediently, but her mind was in a whirl. What could be the matter with Victor?